Bloodstained bedsheet: virginity testing in India

Despite India being the world’s largest democracy, India is a very conservative nation with a dreadfully strong emphasis on virginity. Before I go any further, I must remind you that this is not an article that generalizes the country of India but rather an essay on ethnic groups and their sickening practices that have been going on for centuries.

Imagine marrying someone and then realizing you must prove your virginity to not only your partner but an entire committee. A small ethnic group called Kanjarbhat ethnic group does exactly that! Its a “wedding night virginity testing” where you have to prove your virginity to a committee to be deemed “pure”. Many parts of the country still believe that women are supposed to bleed when they have sex for the first time and while many doctors disagree, these beliefs still exist to this day.

The night of the wedding, the bride and the groom must have sex and come out with bloodstain on the sheets. During this procedure, the elders clean the room and remove any sharp objects and place a white bedsheet on the bed. Many times, the couple is given a time limit while the council members sit outside. These council members consist of all elderly males who are unelected that oversee the repercussions if the bride “fails” her virginity test. If the bride doesn’t bleed on her first night, it can lead to divorce, humiliation of her family or a harsh punishment. Many youths are against this idea because its humiliating and a huge violation of the privacy of the couple but are silenced or are considered outcaste from their friends and family. An outcaste cannot marry or attend any events in the community.

Groups like this are widely spread out in the country. Another ethnic group makes the groom dress in white on his first night so he can prove that his “product” is pure. Elders sit outside till the intercourse is completed and knock on the doors every couple of minutes to remind them to finish the deed. They usually encourage pornography or instruct the couple on how to have sex if they are having trouble. There is a lot of pressure put on the couple to pass the test, not to mention, they take away bride’s bangles and other jewelry to make sure she doesn’t cut herself.

“He’s supposed to tell the whole caste council consisting of 150, 200 people that, my ‘product’ was perfect, my ‘product’ was pure,” Vivek said.

People who refuse to participate in this ritual are often berated, pressured, or get their property vandalized. Indian law has always banned these council members but committees like this still exist. Under the Indian constitution, these practices are unlawful but progressive India is still fighting these rituals.

Heanue, S. (2018, April 06). A white bedsheet, a bride’s wedding night humiliation. Retrieved October 28, 2020, from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-06/virginity-testing-ritual-faces-growing-opposition-in-india/9619884

BS in Psychology and Neuroscience OSU 22'. Intern at University of Michigan for COVID-19 Research and Literature Review and Analysis